#wontEatWillTravel – Rocky Mountain National Park

Venue: Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Duration: 1 or 2 days
Best time to visit: Pretty much all around the year.
Accommodation: Estes Park or cabins around the national park. Denver or cities nearby could be a good option as well.

It was a last-minute trip. We did not have a list of things to do for the long weekend and had decided to go with the flow. The itinerary is as below. You have to make reservations to enter the national park and can only enter during those hours. The link to make reservations is here -> https://www.recreation.gov/timed-entry/10086910.

Day 1:
A few must-visit places –
Estes Park: This place is slightly outside the national park. It is a busier area with beautiful lakes, breathtaking views, and loads of restaurants and shopping areas.
Moraine Park: This spot is on your way to the Bear lake corridor. Moraine Park offers abundant wildlife and breathtaking views of the snow-clad mountains.
Bear Lake: This one is a short 0.8 miles walk in the park. The lakes were still frozen and added to the beauty.
Dream Lake & Emerald Lake: The trail starts from the Bear Lake trail. It can get trickier due to the snow.
Trail Ridge Road: This drive offers gorgeous views of the mountains. The views from the overlook spots are stunning. The Forest Canyon overlook has panoramic views of Hayden Gorge, Gorge lakes, Longs Peak, and Stones Peak.
Alpine visitor center: It is the highest visitor center in the US. The alpine ridge trail is an easy, 0.6-mile hike that takes us to the panoramic views of the entire national park.
Alberta Falls: This is one of the popular waterfalls in the park. This 1.7 miles trip takes around 1-1.5 hours. It could take longer due to snow.

Day 2:
The second day was reserved for the Royal Gorge Route Railway trip, Garden of Gods, and Pike’s Peak. You can book the rides here –> https://www.royalgorgeroute.com/. This spectacular 2-hour train ride takes through the Colorado Rockies and tracks the river along the way. The open coaches guarantee you a ‘Chhaiyya Chhaiyya’ feel. We could not do Garden of the Gods and Pike’s peak due to hailstorms but they are must-visit spots. We ended up celebrating our friends’ engagement instead.

More things to do in Colorado:
Colorado has varied landscapes. You could ski, snow-shoe in Aspen, hike in the Rockies, do kayaking and river-rafting in Canon city, or enjoy a hot-air balloon flight in Lafayette. If you feel adventurous you could do ziplining, via Ferrata, take an aerial gondola, or ride the world’s scariest sky coaster. Visit this website for more –> https://www.colorado.com/. A few pictures from the trip –

New girl in the city – Chandler, AZ

Date: 02/28/21
Venue: Chandler, AZ

2:48 AM: I opened my eyes to search for the source of light/noise that woke me up. After having found no robber/alien, I decided to go back to sleep.
After a failed attempt, I opened WhatsApp. My school friends had just discovered celery juice, ayurvedic medicines, yoga, and the incessant need to reduce weight and be fit. I looked at my growing waistline and decided to do something about it as well. #noteToSelf: Change eating and drinking habits.

3:45 AM: Sleep had given me a slip. I decided to take life into my own hands and read a few chapters from Mrs.Funnybones instead of wasting time ‘trying’ to sleep.

4:45 AM: After reading a few chapters, I stopped to think. I realized that I had never stopped to think about how life has changed or the magnitude of that change. Chandler has made me a daughter-in-law and a wife. I made a quick list of changes in different aspects of life – 

Amazing Love/Married life
Marriage is what brought me here. We have come to realize the beauty of marriage. We have seen love, trust and our relationship grow every day. 

Questionable Social Life
It feels like 2nd grade all over again when I had moved to a new school and none would play with me! Jokes aside, I miss the social life, bar-hopping, feeling of belongingness, fun, and generally…knowing people. I miss my dance life! I miss throwing KJo style parties for 100 people – partly because of Covid and partly because the husband and I are at least 4 years away from knowing 100 people in the area. At present, the struggle to have a social life is real. 

Strenuous Job hunt
I don’t know where this is going. Only the Gods know the bigger picture.

5:15 AM: My eyes felt swollen. I decided to go back to bed, for real this time. As I laid down, I looked at the husband. He opened his eyes and the following conversation happened (that he has no recollection of) – 

Husband: Why aren’t you asleep?
Me: I don’t know. I am trying to go back to sleep now.
Husband: Why don’t you get up and do something fruitful?
I was amazed at my husband’s thoughtful suggestion at the unGodly hour. I knew that the apartment was a mess but I was hoping he wouldn’t ask me to do the unthinkable at this time.
Me: Do you have any ideas for me? I just read a couple of chapters.
Husband: Why don’t you apply and study?
Me: What? At 5 AM? But I want to sleep! Good night.
Both of us fell asleep. #noteToSelf: Never engage in a conversation when the husband is half-asleep. He does not remember and you get furious!

10:00 AM: I woke up swollen. My eyes felt like boiled potatoes. The husband was already on a family call. I joined in.

11:00 AM: I told the husband about last night’s half-asleep conversation. I also announced that we should be cognizant of our eating habits or may soon need karela juice and intermittent fasting to shed the extra pounds. He laughed the entire conversation off.
Brunch happened.

Noon: We decided to take an impromptu trip. We look for nearby places to visit.

12:10 PM: The much-needed cleaning spree began. I am sorry, were we not going on a trip?

2:00 PM: We left for the half-day trip.

3:00 PM: We reached Saguaro lake. Kayaks, picnic tables, barbecues, wind in the hair, and barbecues were an integral part of the scene. All we had was a packet of chips. We decided to eat barbecue-flavored chips to match up. We were not prepared to party here. #noteToSelf: Be better prepared next time.

3:55 PM: Having skipped lunch, we rushed to the only restaurant at the lake and got ourselves a table. The wind was chilly (hoodies on) and the food was yummy (french fries a must!).

5:30 PM: On our way back home, we took a detour to Fountain hills. The fountain did not go off since wind speed was higher than 10 miles per hour. The view and serenity compensated for that.

6:30 PM: We called it a day.

I realized the day is how Chandler has been. I did not know what to expect after Seattle. Life had thrown enough lemons my way. Chandler has been like a lake in the middle of a desert, a breath of fresh air and wind in my dry hair. It has been like a Cosmopolitan lined with lemon with a twist. It has been surreal, amazing, and unexpected. It has been fabulous and beautiful in very different ways. Life here has been something beyond my imagination. Here’s me hoping that life gets better in the Social life and job-hunt realm soon. 

More to come.

#wontEatWillTravel – Zion National Park

Venue: Zion National Park, Utah
Duration: 1 or 2 days
Best time to visit: Summer and early autumn
Accommodation: I recommend that you stay at the lodges inside of the national park. We stayed at Page, AZ. If you plan to visit Bryce Canyon as well, I would recommend staying at BnB/hotels right outside/between the two national parks.
Entrance Fees: $35

This day trip was impromptu. The original plan was Las Vegas, NV –> Page, AZ –> Horseshoe bend, AZ –> Lake Powell, AZ –> Monument Valley, AZ. We did not realize that the way to Page would go via Utah. After entering Utah we checked the maps for proximity to Zion national park (out of curiosity). We were only 30 miles away. So, all roads led to Zion.

Zion national park looks very different in summer vs winter. In summers you have to take the NPS shuttle to go around. In winter, you can use your car. We left Vegas after check-out and had lost a significant amount of daylight already. Our time in Zion was going to be limited. We decided to drive down the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and limit it to one hike for the day.

The Zion Canyon Scenic drive begins at the Zion visitor center and ends at the Temple of Sinawawa (The Narrows). Popular hikes/points like Angels Landing and Observation point are along the scenic drive. The drive looked very different in the winter. Hundreds walked along the scenic road instead of driving. The fall colors looked magnificent. There was a chill in the air. Wildlife roamed free on the roads and obstructed traffic for the most part. It was lovely! We drove to the Temple of Sinawawa and hiked to the Narrows. After sunset, we returned with phone torches on.

Though we could not cover Zion extensively on this trip, here are a few must-visit places –
Canyon Overlook Trail: This 1-mile round trip hike offers one of the best views of the canyon.
Riverside Trail: This 2.2 miles roundtrip is a beautiful walk alongside the Virginia river.
Angels Landing: It is the most popular and thrilling hike that might require training. A section of the hike requires chain-assisted rock climbing!
Weeping Rock: It is a short hike with a mostly paved way. As the name suggests, it is a huge rock dripping with water.
Emerald Pool Trail: This 1.5-3 miles hike connects the lower and upper Emerald pools.
Hidden Canyon Trail: This strenuous 3-mile hike is similar to Angels landing with steep trails and chain-assisted climbing.
Observation Point: This 8-mile long strenuous hike offers jaw-dropping views of Zion national park.
The Narrows: I’ve had a chance to hike the narrows in the summer. This trail goes through the river into the red canyon. The water gets deeper as you proceed. You can use a pair of shorts to do this hike or rent the equipment.

I recommend staying inside the national park if possible. That would save a lot of daylight. Catching the sunrise and sunset would make the trip perfect.

We left for Page, AZ, soon after the hike. As it turned darker, the moonlight reflected off the snow. We stopped in the middle of nowhere for some stargazing. We reached Page for dinner. A few pictures from the day –

#wontEatWillTravel – Death Valley National Park

Venue: Death valley national park
Duration: 1 or 2 days
Best time to visit: October to April
Visitor Center: Furnace Creek
Accommodation: Few hotels/motels inside. We stayed in Las Vegas, NV
Entrance fees: $30

Death Valley national park is the hottest, driest, and lowest national park in the US. It covers an area of 3.4 million acres! Despite that, you can cover the national park in a day (if you utilize the daylight well). It is barren, bold, and beautiful. It is hostile and diverse. We had only one day to spend here, so we kept away from all hikes. Please make sure you wear sunblock (for summers), have enough warm clothes (for winters), your car has enough juice to survive the day, and carry enough food for yourself. Death Valley is one of the not-so commercialized national parks. There are hardly any restaurants and gas stations inside. If you are traveling from Las Vegas, the last stop to fill in gas is Pahrump. We picked up food in Las Vegas. The route we took is as indicated in the map below.

Dante’s view: This point offers a premier outlook of the national park. It is at 5476 ft. above sea level. It gives splendid views of the Badwater basin that is 282 ft. below sea level.
20 Mule team canyon: We did not know what to expect here. It is a beautiful drive surrounded by white mudstone hills. This one-way road starts fairly wide and narrows towards the end of the canyon before joining the highway. Statutory warning: The road gets curvy later.
Zabriskie Point: This is a good sunrise point. It offers a stunning overlook of the badlands full of canyons in all directions. It is a must-visit point.
Furnace Creek Visitor Center: This is the main visitor center. It has campsites, drinking water, restrooms, and a gas station.
Artist’s palette: There are multiple attractions en route to the Badwater Basin. The hills at Artist’s palette are green, pink, and yellow due to the presence of mica, manganese and iron salts, etc. We were losing daylight, so we drove straight to the Badwater Basin.
Devil’s golf course: The valley floor surface is jagged and uneven, unlike the Badwater basin. This quick stop is necessary.
Natural bridge: This 2-mile round-trip takes you to a natural bridge (1 hour). We skipped it.
Badwater Basin: The valley floor is a salt pan and the lowest point in the US at 282 ft. below sea level. It was our sunset point for the day. The feeling was surreal. You can walk as much as you want in the basin and come back.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes: This was our stargazing spot.
6 PM: It felt like 9 PM. We got a good and clear view of the stars and the milky way. We spent an hour talking about the stars, the milky way, and ancient aliens.
7 PM: An animal ran across. We stood up. I turned on my flashlight and directed it to the animal. It was out of the reach of the light but stared right back at us. We decided to leave. We continued our conversation in the parking lot during dinner. Suddenly the car behind ours turned on the headlights and moved. We could see a set of the prying eyes around the vehicle. They left the spot.
On further research, we realized that we had been surrounded by a pack of kit foxes all this while! It was our first rendezvous with wildlife from up close. We left immediately.

I recommend you spend at least two days here and stay at a hotel inside the national park if possible. One can only imagine the sunrises and sunsets here. A few captured moments below.

PC: Ninad/Ankit/Me
Next: Zion National Park

#wontEatWillTravel Road trip Christmas 2020

Day 1/6

We wanted day one to be light. We left home at noon.

205 miles. 3 hours.

Punjabi Dhaba, Kingman, AZ: We stopped here for lunch. This one was a surprise. The restaurant hides behind a Love’s truck stop. You know it is an authentic Punjabi restaurant when you see Canadian truck drivers stopping for a take-out. The menu is limited but will more than satisfy your taste buds.

+85 miles. 1 and 1/2 hours.

Hoover Dam, AZ/NV: We reached this beauty a little before the sunset. All tours are closed owing to the pandemic. So, this was quick.

+38 miles. 45 minutes.

Las Vegas, NV: We went into full tourist mode and clicked a picture under the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign.

We stayed at Caesar’s Palace hotel for the first two nights. Despite the pandemic, Las Vegas was pretty crowded. Only a few selected businesses remain closed. We were checked for temperature before check-in. The check-in procedure took almost an hour. The room was beautiful and had a pool view! Statutory warning: Parking is a pain.

We decided to walk the strip in the evening. We also took a ride in the Linq high roller. You can practice social distancing on the ride as every pod seats only 5-6 people. It promises fantastic views for sure.

We returned to the hotel at around midnight.
Next: Death valley national park.

PC: Ninad aka The Husband

#wontEatWillTravel Road trip – Christmas 2020

Almost 2000 miles. 6 days. 4 states. 4 national parks. The greatest road-trip of all times.

Ankit is visiting! My boys met each other for the first time.
Ankit and I hadn’t been to this part of the US yet. So, we decided to take a road trip to major destinations in and around Arizona. The destinations were a good mix of places we had visited earlier as well as new ones.
This post only outlines the trip. The upcoming posts shall go through all the days/national parks in detail.

Day 1:
Punjabi Dhaba, Kingman, Arizona (Must visit)
Hoover dam, Arizona/Nevada
Las Vegas, Nevada
Night @ Las Vegas

Day 2:
Death Valley National Park, California
Night @ Las Vegas, Nevada

Day 3:
Zion National Park, Utah
Night @ Page, Arizona

Day 4:
Horseshoe bend, Arizona
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Night @ Page, Arizona

Day 5:
Lake Powell, Page, Arizona
Bearizona, Williams, Arizona
Grand Canyon National Park, South Rim, Arizona
Night @ Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Day 6:
Grand Canyon National Park, South Rim, Arizona
Home Sweet Home.

A few tips if you are going on a road trip during the winters:
1. Clothing: You may need to wear layers. It can get windy, cold, and snowy.
2. Hiking: The major hikes may be closed during the winters. In the event you decide to take the trails that are open during the winters, I would recommend hiking/snowshoes and gear.
3. Gas: Across Arizona and Utah there are stretches with absolutely no civilization. Make sure your gas tank is always full.
4. Food/Drinks: We had a cooler bag full of adult/non-adult beverages at all times. We carried a month-worth of snacks as well. Most restaurants shut down at 9 PM. Depending on where you go you would want to check ahead and schedule accordingly.
5. Stay: We stayed at Caesar’s Palace in Vegas, Marriott at Page, and Yavapai Lodge at Grand Canyon. I’d recommend going for lodges inside the national parks if you can.
We changed plans on the go and ended up traveling a lot more than we should have. For example, Bryce Canyon and Zion were last minute additions. Had we planned better, we would have stayed at Kanab (a place between both the national parks) rather than driving down to Page for the night.
6. Please mind the road closures.
7. Spontaneous changes are good. Make sure you have enough fuel for it.
8. We tried to see sunrises, sunsets, and do star-gazing wherever we went. We are sunset-chasers. So, we made sure all the sunsets were picturesque.
9. Don’t approach the wildlife. If you suspect wildlife is around you, excuse yourself. (Story in the upcoming posts)
10. Make sure your team has more than one driver. The more the merrier.
11. Try to drive as little as possible between two consecutive destinations. That saves time and miles.
12. With the sun setting earlier during winters, try to maximize the daylight.
13. We preferred not to spend time at breakfast and lunches. So, they were always on the go. This helped us utilize the daylight better. We made a point to return to the hotel by 8-9 PM. So, our dinners were relaxed and we could call it a day early.
14. Don’t try to pack a lot in a few days. Keep it relaxing.
15. Please download offline maps. None of our phones had a network for long hours.
16. Make sure you have phone chargers in your car.
17. Mind the speed limits. We saw innumerable speed traps, especially in smaller cities.
18. The sun is brutal even during the winters. Make sure you have a pair of sunglasses.

Here’s how our road trip looked on Google Maps.

A few highlights from the trip –

#wontEatWillTravel Arizona Road Trip – Thanksgiving week

Picture courtesy: Ninad Paranjape/Me.

This was the first trip N and I took as a couple. The states neighboring Arizona are closed for business so we decided to go local. Owing to the pandemic, we researched and made a list of 34 lesser-visited destination in Arizona. We mapped a few destinations out and left the next morning.

Lake Pleasant Regional Park, Morristown, AZ: It is one/one and a half hour away from Chandler. We reached around noon. The drive to the park was amazing – loved it! I recommend you to check the working hours and routes before you travel. The last leg to the lake was shut so we viewed the lake from the Pleasant Harbor Marina. You can rent boats and kayaks here. The lake is as blue as it can be.

Watson Lake, Prescott, AZ: Watson lake is one and a half-hour away from Lake Pleasant. The route from Lake Pleasant to Watson Lake is amazing. Arizona suddenly turns into scenic Montana and ends as Colorado with all the granite at Watson Lake. This charming lake is surrounded by granite rocks.
You can hike the Watson lake loop trail. We chose to maintain distance and climbed down to the lake by taking the rocky path to the left. It’s nothing that you cannot do in slippers (though I recommend you wear shoes). We did not see anyone kayaking/boating here.

Sycamore falls, Williams, AZ: This was going to be our sunset point. The last 10-15 miles of the road to the Sycamore falls is a dirt road lined with private properties. We re-checked the map several times en route to this one. The road ends at a place with a signboard and restroom. There were no markings for the trail. After guesswork, we decided to take the route that started from behind the signboard. We climbed down for 30 seconds (no markings. only logs.) and took a right. Unexpectedly, the falls were frozen. Yes, you read it right. It was not snowing but the falls were frozen. There was no sign of life (at all!). Pretty spooky.

On our way back we saw the best sunset ever.

Sunset in Arizona

Williams, AZ: We were not sure if we could visit Sycamore on Day 1. So, we had booked a room for the night at Williams. Good life choice. We stayed at the Holiday Inn – a comfortable stay. Grand Canyon Brewing + Distillery is right next door. It has great ambiance (Christmas lights made it look even better), and good food. The portions are substantial. You will enjoy the adult beverages here.

Bearizona, Williams AZ: LOVED this place! If you are accompanied by kids, this place is a must-visit. As adults, we could have spent a few more hours for sure. This is a drive-thru zoo attached to a walk-thru zoo! It is recommended that you shut down all doors and windows while driving. A few pictures below to get you excited!

Sedona, AZ: The route from Williams to Sedona is beautiful. You can still see fall colors! The red rocks are mesmerizing. The next destination was the Devil’s bridge. We did not find a parking spot and looking at the crowd we decided to pass. We walked the lonely Two Fence Trail for a little bit instead. It has good views and is not a tough walk at all. Later, we went to Tlaquepaque for lunch and shopping. It is very picturesque. I recommend that you visit The Chai Spot here. A few pictures from Sedona.

Chapel of the Holy Cross, Sedona, AZ: We stopped at the Chapel of the Holy Cross after lunch. The views from here are fantastic! It was on the way to our next destination. It was very crowded though. FYI, public restrooms are not available.

We were going to end the trip at Montezuma Castle National Monument but we could not get there in time. It shuts down at 4:45 PM and we reached at 4:55 PM.

Since we could not find a spot for sunset, we stopped at a random place to see the magic. Photos from the valley. We left for home soon after.

Of sunsets and frozen rivers

Arizona is enthralling. Overall, it was a very good road trip. Hopefully, we will take more trips in the future. Keep reading this space for more. Stay Safe.

Air travel during pandemic

A month ago, I moved back to the US to reunite with N. Two weeks later, N and I traveled to Ohio to attend my sister-in-law’s wedding! So, I’ve had to travel quite a bit by air in the last 30 days. I flew United and Frontier

Picture Courtesy: N

A few things I noticed during the travel and tips around the same –

  • Check-in: Even if you web check-in you will have to stand in a queue to drop off your bags (if any). You’d see the 6 ft. distance marking on the ground while in the queue. Try to follow the rules and encourage your fellow passengers to do the same.
    Tip: Try to limit the luggage to carry-on if possible. That will spare you from standing in the queue and for luggage drop-off and baggage claim. A good way to avoid crowds.
  • Security check: This process has not changed much. It is really difficult to maintain distance during security checks. The length of the queue will differ by airports – busier airports will take longer. However, I was the only one doing security at the forever-busy Mumbai airport (IDK HOW!!). The security personnel will request you to lower your masks for identity verification purposes. You scan your boarding pass. All security personnel wear gloves that are changed now and then.
  • Before boarding: The airlines usually give you a heads up if the flight is full via email. You can move dates if possible.
    If you are at the airport, the number of passengers seated around the gate should give you a good idea as well.
    Tip: Grab a seat at an adjoining vacant terminal to avoid the crowds.
    Visit the restroom before boarding. Using the restrooms at the airport terminal should feel safer than the ones on the flight.
  • Layovers: We had a 5.5-hour layover in Denver and a 3-hour layover in Vegas. Here’s what we observed – the majority of the stores and restaurants were closed. Very few restaurants serve – some offer only take-out. Restaurants that have dine-in operate at 50% capacity or lesser. This means you may have to wait to be seated.
    We had brunch at Denver and lunch at the Vegas airport. There was sufficient distance between adjoining tables so it felt safe to dine-in. The servers wore masks at all times. The degree of cleanliness may differ by airports/restaurants.
    Since the layover at Denver was longer we had 3+ hours to spare after a leisurely brunch. Due to reduced flights, we found picturesque seats at a vacant terminal to chill and watch a movie. You can find a place away from the crowds at airports in case of layovers.
    Tip: Download movies/series on Netflix before you fly for entertainment purposes.
    Carry snacks whenever possible. It’s best not to rely on airport restaurants during the pandemic.
  • Restroom breaks: As mentioned above, use the ones at airports rather than the ones on the flight. The restrooms were mostly vacant – no queues at all. The stalls were clean and tidy as well. Some airports have blocked adjacent sinks to create the distance.
  • Boarding: Some airlines tend to check the temperature before you board. If your temperature is beyond the threshold you may be denied boarding. Passengers were boarded according to seat numbers and not zones. So, the latter half of the aircraft was boarded first and so on.
  • On the flight: Quite a few articles suggest that traveling via air is lesser risky because of the way the air is filtered and circulated. You should feel safe as long as you have your mask on. 3/6 of my flights were packed. The other 3 were roomy. Traveling in close proximity of unknown passengers feels unsafe though.
    The airline may/may not offer snacks and beverages. United did. Frontier did not.
    Tip: If your row is packed but the flight has enough room you may ask for a different seat.
    Sanitizing the seats, tray, and hand rest would be a good idea.
    Carry snacks if you have a longer flight/tend to get hungry.
  • De-boarding: This process has not changed much. Pandemic/no pandemic passengers are still in a hurry to de-board.
    Tip: Be patient and avoid crowding the aisles.
  • Baggage Claim: High chances of crowds gathering at this step. As mentioned earlier, please try to fit luggage in your backpack/carry-on to spare yourselves the trouble.

    Overall, it is hard to rate whether or not it felt safe to travel by air. Pretty subjective. Personally, I don’t mind traveling by air at this point. There are ways one can maintain distance and take precautions but in the end, it boils down to one’s immunity. I was very aware of anyone sneezing/coughing around me. But the only one sneezing was me (i tend to sneeze when temperature changes). A few parting tips –
  • Take direct flights wherever possible.
  • Did not see anyone wearing PPE kits; masks and face coverings were it.
  • It would have been nice to see more sanitizer lying around. Please carry a sanitizer and make sure to sanitize every time you touch a surface.
  • Make sure to carry sanitizing wipes to wipe the area before you seat yourself.
  • Please carry hand sanitizing wipes just in case.
  • You should carry a moisturizer in case the sanitizer tends to dry your hands out.
  • Carrying multiple masks with you should be a good idea. Change masks if need be.
  • Please carry napkins just in case.
  • Please cover your mouth if you sneeze or cough.

    On that note, I recognize that wearing masks throughout the journey is annoying but you gotta do what you gotta do. Every time the masks irritate you just remember ‘This too shall pass’. Please take a test if you experience symptoms shortly after your travel.

    Stay safe. Safe travels.

#wontEatWillTravel Malaysia (Overview)

It’s been forever since I’ve had the mindset to put pen to paper. My recent solo trip to Malaysia changed things. This post is an overview of my trip to Kuala Lampur/Malaysia. Details to follow.

Airport – KLCC
Airline – Malindo Air (Not recommended. Please choose another airline. Poor customer service. On my way over all I was offered was water. The flight was delayed by 2.5 hours. You have to pay extra for food when you book your ticket (was unaware of this concept). The food wasn’t good either.
Visa – Easiest Online Visa ever (one of the reasons why I chose to visit Malaysia). Beware of fake Visa sites. Your visa expenses should not exceed $60-$70. Make sure you apply for your visa only via an official Malaysian website ending with .my.
Hotel – Furama @ Bukit Bintang. It is a good hotel except for the construction going on all around. That makes the commute very difficult. I would recommend staying at KL ‘downtown’ (area near the Petronas twin towers) instead.
Transportation – Mostly Grab. Not all the tourist destinations are connected by public transport (surprisingly). You will need to alternate between Grab and the train.
GRAB – Impressive application. The drivers are pro-actively responsive. Loved how easy to use it was. I could not sync my credit card for payments so had to rely on cash.
I struggled with time management on my last day in Malaysia. I asked a Grab driver if he would wait for me at one of the attractions and drop me at the hotel later. I’d pay him accordingly. He agreed!! That made my life so convenient!
Trains – Trains have a good frequency. The tickets cost around 1-3 RM. Tickets can be bought at the kiosks apart from the ticket counter. The kiosks do not accept folded currency.
Funny but true, the trains to and from the airport cost you 55 RM!! Grabs cost you 65 RM. Weird!
Regular Taxis – They charge you at least double of what Grab would. Also, they have no tracking system so definitely not a safe option for solo travelers. Feel free to test your bargaining skills.
Buses – Debatable frequency. The construction going all around must be one of the issues. Also, some of the bus stations are located at shady places where you may not feel safe as a solo female traveler.
Demographics – Malay + Chinese + Tamilians; most of them are 2nd or 3rd generation Malaysians. Inter-caste marriages have led to cross-cultures as well.
Culture – I’d go with conservative. Most women adorn a headscarf. You can see a good mix of Malay-Tamil-Chinese culture with all the sects protecting their own cultures well.
Don’t be surprised if you hear ads of ‘Folic acid’ and ‘Stay in your own lane’ on the radio channels.
Languages – Malay, Tamil, Mandarin and English. Also, Manglish. Add ‘La’ at the end of every sentence to sound like a local. Can definitely help you bargain better.
Weather – September through January is monsoon. If you travel during this period (like I did) be ready to forgo a few attractions. The rains dampened Melaka city tour and all of my evenings.
Attire – Multiple forums advise you to go conservative. You can differentiate between locals and tourists based on the way they dress. I’d suggest go all cotton and conservative (I went from Denims to Uniqlo 3/4th in the middle of Perdana botanical gardens to Save My Soul). Temples require you to be dressed appropriately (read: no legs showing) in order to enter. Mosques provide you with the traditional Islamic attire at the entrances that you have to wear if you wish to enter. I recommend carrying a scarf in your bag and a bathtub of sunscreen.
Safety – As a solo female traveler, I tried to be aware of my surroundings at all times. Malaysia is notorious for bag snatching and robbery (ALL Grab drivers warned me against it). I don’t know the statistics for crime against women/sexual assaults though (red: prefer not to google either). All the tourists seemed to be guarding their purses more than their lives.
I chose group tours instead of private ones. Grabs felt pretty safe/Normal cabs did not. Trains are safe. I waited at a shady bus-stop, all decked up, for half an hour in complete darkness and received some unwelcome attention. I’d avoid doing that in the future. Along the same lines, Chinatown becomes shady after dark.
PS: You can keep your passport in the hotel locker. I was not asked for any ID ever. Please do not carry it if not required.
Currency/Money – Ringgits/Dollars/Rupees everything seemed to work there. I was the happiest since Chase Sapphire Reserve worked at most places (it doesn’t work everywhere in India).

Itinerary Overview

Day 1:

  • KLCC Aquarium
  • KLCC Park
  • Batu Caves
  • Sri Mahamariamman Temple
  • Reggae Bar
  • Chinatown
  • Petaling Street

Day 2:

  • Melaka – Day tour
  • Bukit Bintang
  • No Black Tie – Jazz concert
  • Pisco – Peruvian bar

Day 3:

  • Suria Mall
  • Bukit Bintang
  • Perdana Botanical Garden – Bird Park, Butterfly Park, Deer Park, Tun Abdul Razzak Memorial, Unique trees park (or something to that effect)
  • Petronas Towers
  • Heli Lounge

Day 4:

  • National Mosque of Malaysia
  • National Museum of Malaysia
  • Central Market + Kasturi Street
  • National Textile Museum
  • Thean Hou Temple

Attractions I could not cover/would want to cover the next time I am in Malaysia –

  • Hibiscus & Orchid garden – Closed for renovation
  • Jalan Alor AKA Khau galli of KL – I am sad to have missed this. The rain dampened my spirits every evening.
  • KLCC Eco Park – Rainforest in the middle of a hustling city. I chose not to visit.
  • KL Tower – Fell short of time. Also, having lived in the city of Space needle I did not feel the need to go to another needle kinda space.
  • Genting Highlands – I heard rave reviews about this place during my Melaka day-tour. Sadly, I did not have enough days to cover it. The pictures look amazing though.
  • Penang – The pictures were to die for. But Penang is farther away from KL and not a day-trip material. I’d suggest a road trip for this destination.
  • Little India – Fell short of time. Also, coming from India I opted out.
  • Glittering Fireflies & Kuala Selangor Night tour – Not enough time, guts and energy. Also, probably not a good life choice during monsoons.

Pro tips –

  • Wear cotton as much as possible.
  • Beware of purse snatchers.
  • Carry a portable charger. In hindsight, life would have been simpler with it.
  • Do not fold your Riggits. The kiosks won’t accept them.
  • Map your destinations beforehand so that you don’t lose time searching for them and don’t miss out on the fun.
  • Mind the timings for temples and mosques. They are not open throughout the day.
  • Grabs are difficult to find during prime time. I waited for an hour on Day 2 and ended up taking a cab.
  • In hindsight, taking trains would have been much more economical and would have caused lesser frustration. Trains are traffic-proof.
  • Hydrate.
  • I’d rather stay in a hotel near the Petronas towers and Changat Bukit Bintang than farther away. Though my hotel was in close proximity, the construction and rains made it impossible to commute to the more happening places.
  • Alcohol is expensive – or at least it was wherever I went.
  • It is okay to carry a backpack everywhere. Most tourist attractions have stalls to take care of your bags.
  • You are in good hands with T-mobile. God bless T-mobile.
  • If you decide to click a picture with parrots at the Bird park please mind their toe-nails!
  • Carry a camera instead of relying on your phones for pictures. You need your phone battery for Grab.
  • Carry an umbrella/rain jacket if you decide to visit during monsoons. Most resorts/ few tourist attractions are closed during monsoons.
  • Always carry enough cash (you probably know that).

Keep watching this space for details and pictures.